The Highs and the Lows of the NHL in 2011

There was a lot of action in the NHL this year. Here are three things about the NHL in 2011 I will always remember and three things I will spend my life trying to forget.

 

 

Let’s start with the bad so we can end on the good.

3 Things Worth Forgetting

1. Zdeno Chara’s Hit on Max Pacioretty
This still, for me personally, is one of the most disgusting acts of violence I have ever seen in the NHL. I believe without a doubt Chara knew exactly what he was doing. Exactly. Add to that (Dr.) Mark Recchi’s ridiculous medical opinions and the incredibly embarrassing way Bruins fans everywhere proved that they were the most unintelligent, ignorant fans in the league (with their vigorous and rude defence of the hit) and you had quite the drama. To add more insult to existing insult to injury, the NHL – Colin Campbell in particular – proved once again “justice” is anything but fair when Chara received ZERO discipline. It was a foreshadow to the lackadaisical way the league would treat discipline against the Bruins for the remainder of the season and post-season. (and into this season as well).

2. Concussions
It started almost the moment 2011 did with Steckel’s blinding shoulder to the head of the face of the NHL on a very public stage – The Winter Classic & HBO 24/7. I knew the second I saw the hit that he was very injured. I think a lot of fans did – I mean you couldn’t deny the dazed look in his eyes between periods. But yet he kept playing. And played more games until a second hit finally forced him out of the game. To this day Sidney Crosby is still suffering concussion-like symptoms. Yes he came back and made a strong, hard effort until a game against the Bruins took him out of action again. Concussions are still victimizing the league with stars like Pronger, Letang, Giroux and Marc Staal all falling victim. Three of those four are still out after a prolonged time. You can see the frustration in players, fans and coaches. On the Flyers-Rangers 24/7 a player called a concussion the “Flavor of the week”, Laviolette blatantly pressures Giroux to come back and the darling, Torts (who I think is on the verge of a heart attack at any given moment) makes faces when the word comes up.

Staal + Staal = concussion

In a way I get their lack of sympathy for this injury. Concussions have been a factor on all sports for years but have suddenly become impossible to avoid and equally impossible to cure. Is the league being over-cautious? Maybe. Maybe not. The equally frustrating thing is I don’t know if we’ll ever have an answer to that. I think, more likely than not, the sensitivity to head injuries will fall out of fashion eventually. Hopefully we don’t go back to neglecting them completely and instead find some healthy middle ground.

3. The Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots
It was an embarrassment. It was a sad, sick joke. It was unfair and uncalled for. I could be talking about the actual final game here, but no, I’m talking about the riots afterward. And I stand firm in my belief it had little to do with the actual events on the ice. Win or lose I knew the idiots that call themselves Canucks fans (the ones use game nights as an excuse to drink beer and buy rip-off $40 jerseys off ebay NOT the people I converse with on twitter) and the idiots that seem to flock to the City at any large event to do nothing but damage would take advantage of the situation. And that they did. There are many people to blame for what went on – at the forefront is Mayor Gregor Robertson who opened up his city with the preparation and forethought of a teenager with his parents out of town. The fact is sports riots are a sad reality in a lot of cities including Los Angeles, Montreal and even Boston where a person died in a Celtics riot. Robertson made it too easy for this to happen. But no matter who is to blame the damage was far more severe than just financial. Vancouver looked like idiots. It tarnished the gleam left after the Olympics. It gave all those jerkoffs who slammed us during the scrappy playoff run something to hold in our faces that we couldn’t deny. And most importantly it disrespected what was a great, strong, valiant run by a team that deserved our respect.

3 Things Worth Remembering 

1. HBO 24/7 Penguins and Capitals Road to the Winter Classic
This show could be the best thing that ever happened to the NHL. For hardcore hockey fans it was a delectable treat to be inside the locker rooms and on the ice with microphones to hear the hits and trash talking first hand. Boudreau was like a drunken irate Santa Clause and the Pittsburgh Penguins had a tangible bond on and off the ice, which made them fun to watch. I’m not going to lie, it made me a Pens fan for life. For people who just didn’t “get” hockey, it opened up the details of the game and exposed a depth to it that probably converted more than one.  Luckily the show was such a hit that we have a new edition to revel in this year. It also spawned In The Room, the Penguins own online continuation of a Behind-the-Scenes show. WIN!

 2. Goalie Fights
Seriously, how can you not love them? The minute the two over padded, awkwardly skating goalies leave their nets and drop their giant sticks and gloves I turn into a caveman and roar. It’s the basics of the game – an old school tribute to a time when men were men and fights weren’t dirty. They were a clean and respected part of the game. Sounds crazy but I truly believe a hockey fight between goalies is a treat. And in one fated week in 2011 we had THREE goalie fights. Johnson versus DePietro. Johnson versus the skill-less rabid Islander pitbull named Haley. You can catch them here. The winners in my opinion – Johnson won both his fights easily. Price sort of won his fight but it was more of a draw (and a joke as you can see both of them smiling during it). My favorite part of the above video link – after the DePietro fight watch Fleury back at the bench. He looks positively, gleefully awe-inspired that his Back-Up brought the Smack-Down. It’s adorable.

3. Game seven of Round One of the Stanley Cup Playoffs & Game Five on the SCF
I was there for both games. Game 7 thanks to my friend Christy. This game brought back all the excitement, and let’s face it terror, of the Olympics and with the same perfect results. (At least Canucks fans think so). Smacking down the Chicago Blackhawks after two years of failure was incredible and set the Canucks on what felt like an unstoppable streak – until another game 7 of which we will not speak.

My actual arm & sign from Game 5.

Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final I sat in my seat all by myself (thanks to my amazing husband who bought me a ticket off our friend Novit who was kind enough to sell it at cost) on the edge of heartbreak the entire time. The series had been rough. When we were winning it was just barely and when we were losing it was a meltdown. Everyone kept telling me that whoever won this game would win the series. I WANTED to believe that. So when Maxim Lapierre scored the only goal of the game I was so excited and so relieved and so overjoyed I literally almost fainted. I shot out of my seat so quickly I got lightheaded. It seemed to good to be true – and sadly it was. We didn’t win the series. but I still got to see my very first Stanley Cup Final game and my favorite Canuck scored the only goal. And for another 48 hours I was able to hold onto the dream that the Canucks would win the Cup. (after we lost game 6 I knew it was over).

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